UT rejects funding from group linked to Chinese Communists
The University of Texas at Austin will not be accepting funds from a group that has suspected ties to the Communist Party in China.
According to an op-ed published by The Washington Post on Sunday, the decision to reject the funding from China United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF) was made after a high-level investigation and a letter from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) expressing concerns about the proposed donation.
"The PRC aims to gradually establish influence in policy debates abroad by shaping Americans’ perception of China."
The funding was originally intended to go toward the school’s new interdisciplinary China Policy Center, which is part of UT’s LBJ School of Public Affairs, before being blocked by university President Gregory Fenves.
On January 2, Cruz penned a letter to Fenves expressing his “concern over the potential for Chinese governmental access to UT-Austin’s education system, which may lead to undue foreign influence and exploitation.”
Both the Chinese group and its leader, Tung Chee-hwa, were suspected of having strong ties to the Communist Party branch that is tasked with influence operations abroad. The connection quickly raised eyebrows among several university officials after the China Policy Center’s Executive Director David Firestein, who is a former foreign service officer, proposed to fund the project through CUSEF.
According to the Post, Fenves then launched an investigation into the matter that lasted for several weeks, with experts probing the risks of accepting the Chinese group’s money to fund the initiative.
“Under the direction of Xi Jinping, the PRC and the CCP have initiated information operations throughout the entire world, most recently in Australia, Latin America, and the United States,” Cruz wrote in his letter to Fenves. “The PRC aims to gradually establish influence in policy debates abroad by shaping Americans’ perception of China.”
Fenves responded to the lawmaker’s concerns on Friday, outlining the lengthy investigation and assuring Cruz that he already made the call to reject the funding before the Senator’s warning.
“Based on that review, I had decided prior to receiving your letter that the university will not accept programmatic funding from CUSEF,” Fenves assured the senator. “Neither will we accept any funds for travel, student exchanges or other initiatives from the organization.”
Peter Mattis, a former U.S. intelligence analyst and a fellow at the Jamestown Foundation, told the Post that “the party’s united front activities are intended—still described in Maoist terms—to mobilize the party’s friends to strike at the party’s enemies,” adding, “That has no place on a university campus in America.”
A CUSEF official, however, told the publication that the organization is funded by private sponsors who support relations between the two superpowers and does not act as a Chinese government agent.
Sen. Cruz did not immediately respond to Campus Reform’s request for comment.
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